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Claude Kennedy, retired cotton station director, former ASCS regional director, passes away at 82


MARIANNA — The Cotton Research Station at Marianna may bear Lon Mann’s name, but the place belonged to Claude Kennedy.
“He loved his station. It was personal for him,” said Chuck Culver, director of external relations for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Kennedy, retired resident director of the station, passed away April 3. He was 82. The station is part of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture.
Kennedy, with his radiant smile and outstretched hands, would welcome visitors and instantly make them feel at home. More often than not, a first-time visitor would get a tour and offer of lunch, regardless of what else was on Kennedy’s calendar that day.
“Claude was a true Southern gentleman who took his job very seriously,” said Deacue Fields, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System. Fields said Kennedy was one of the first people he met on becoming dean of the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.
“In May of 2018, in my first couple of weeks, he gave me a tour of the station,” Fields said. “I recall how much pride he took in the accomplishments of the center and its history. When you visited the station, you got a history lesson and he took a lot of time and pride in explaining all that the station meant to agriculture and the community.”
Nathan Slaton, assistant director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, said that “Claude was more than the resident director at the Lon Mann Cotton Research Station. He loved agriculture and was the resident historian and welcoming committee for anyone who visited the station. His contributions to the Cotton Research Station will be fondly remembered and his southern charm and hospitality and will be dearly missed.”
Kennedy grew up on a Lee County farm near Marianna and later ran the family farm raising cotton, soybeans and beef cattle. He earned a bachelor of science in agronomy at Tennessee A&I in Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1987, Kennedy was called by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., to serve as the Southeast area director for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. He served through the Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidencies, administering farm programs in an area that included 12 states and U.S. territories in the Caribbean.
Kennedy returned home to Arkansas in August 1993 to work as a research specialist for what was then known as the Cotton Branch Experiment Station, working on soybean performance testing for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. In January 1995 he moved from the division’s research arm to its outreach component, the Cooperative Extension Service. There Kennedy worked as an extension agent serving agriculture and the community.
In July 2000, Kennedy was appointed resident director of the Cotton Research Station. His job was more than just cotton, being involved in crop research activities on soybeans, wheat, corn cultivars and grain sorghum in support of Division of Agriculture scientists.
The Cotton Research Station was established in 1925 making it one of the oldest stations in the Division of Agriculture. In September 2005 the station was renamed the Lon Mann Cotton Research Station. It consists of more than 600 acres of farmland located about three miles north of Marianna.

During Kennedy’s tenure as director, irrigated acres at the station increased from 80 to 515, which required precision grading of the additional acreage, installing more than 10,000 feet of underground pipe and adding seven wells. The station has seen more than $1.2 million in added office and equipment storage space, including the Dan Felton, Jr., Building. The station has also seen more than $200,000 in added research and production equipment.
Tom Barber, interim associate vice president-extension for agriculture and natural resources, worked closely with Kennedy. Kennedy wasn’t one to seek awards or flaunt ones he’d earned.
“The reward, in his mind, was seeing everyone successful at that station,” Barber said.
Barber was one of many who had applied research projects at the station, in his previous roles as extension cotton agronomist and weed scientist.
“Whether it was mine or someone else’s research, Claude took pride in that work. He wanted to make sure it was done right,” Barber said. “His willingness to let us work there for all these years really helped develop my career.
“Claude was instrumental in the development of many of our extension recommendations,” he said. “So much of our work, especially in cotton, was done at that station.”
Kennedy also ensured that the station presented its best face to the public, Barber said.
“He was out there at daylight, and long after we left, he was out there weeding the flower beds or watering the crape myrtles,” he said. “You couldn’t make him go home.
“He really believed in the mission and wanted to help farmers in the area. You could tell that he lived it,” Barber said. “Claude was one of those individuals who had a heart to serve and it was easy to recognize.”
Kennedy was very active in community development. He was member in the Marianna Rotary Club, past president of the local Chamber of Commerce, Junior Warden at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and served on many local boards and committees.
A memorial service set for Friday, April 19, at Marianna Civic Center. He is survived by his wife, Jewell, daughters, step-daughters, a niece, nephews and grandchildren.